Runner vs. Nature: Mosquitoes Suck

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Don’t Get Bit (image: Total Mosquito Control)

Vampire talk seems to have died down since the last of the Twilight films came out in 2012 but mosquitoes never got the memo that sucking blood isn’t cool anymore. With summer around the corner and pools of standing water growing more numerous and voluminous, the mosquitoes are coming. For those of us that appreciate the outdoors, these unwanted guests are most problematic.

Here’s the bad news: mosquitoes are attracted to movement, body heat, lactic acid and carbon dioxide. So unless you know how to run with out moving, sweating or breathing, mosquitoes will find you. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, which also happen to be the only bearable times to run between the months of June and September in much of the northern hemisphere. Some mosquitoes may be developing immunity to repellants and mosquitoes are more attracted to beer drinkers.

Worst of all they carry deadly diseases that ruin lives and slow economies around the world. Malaria alone infects north of 200 million people per year and the distance runner meccas Ethiopia and Kenya are some of the worst affected.

The good news? There is no good news. Mosquitoes suck. And chances are we wouldn’t miss them if they were gone.

So as summer spurs along and the little devils start hatching we all might have to take a few precautions to avoid them. Only mosquito repellant containing DEET has been proven to work although other mosquito repellants are available. DEET does cause an allergic reaction on some people so moderate use is warranted and spraying on clothing, arms and legs is probably more prudent than on the face except in the densest of mosquito habitats.

The other options for avoiding mosquitoes may not always be the most fun running in the summer. More clothes are better, both to make it harder for them to jam their proboscis (their straw like blood sucking appendage) into your skin, and to mask the body warmth and lactic acid that draw the mosquitoes in. Cooling arm sleeves might be worth trying although looser fitting clothing is more effective in making it harder for the blood suckers that do find you to reach you.

Running in the heat of the day, in the sun, is also helpful in a game of who’s toughest between man and insect. Keep in mind that this blog does not advocate heatstroke as a suitable substitute for bug bites, so if your strategy of mosquito avoidance is the mid-day heat, take liquids with you and keep the distance down. Perhaps more appealing on a hot summer day is running when the wind is at its peak. Mosquitoes are certainly more akin to crop dusters than 747s and a few gusts are often enough to discourage them from taking off. So, while wind may not be friendly to your PRs, it will help you avoid 2 AM itching fits. Mosquitoes are also not fond of rain, but please don’t get struck by lightning.

Also, check around your home to see if there is any unnecessary standing water. This may mean cleaning gutters or regularly draining bird baths, but when each female can lay 200 eggs in each sitting and can do so several times a week at their peak, you will be doing us all a favor. Finally, if you do find yourself feeling fever like symptoms in the dead of summer after encountering mosquitoes, be wary of West Nile and if you are traveling to more tropical regions be cautious of malaria and yellow fever and look into vaccinations.

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